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Astronomy Camping

When we leave the city to go camping in the forest, at the lake or in the desert, the first thing we all notice as the sun goes down are the seemingly millions of stars (well, that and the children have finally stopped screaming while playing).

Unfortunately, less than 1/2 of the population of the United States, Japan, India, Europe and more can see the Milky Way at night from their backyards.  City lights, highway billboards and more have caused a new form of pollution - light pollution.

When you and your family are camping, a whole new nighttime world is presented to you.  Most of America's state and national parks offer views of the nighttime skies that can take even the most casual person's breath away!  Many national parks and monuments offer telescope camping programs with rangers offering viewing through a telescope.

When we look at the stars we think that there must be a million of them (actually, it's far more than a million).  Oddly, not every "star" that we see is actually a star.  Many of the celestial bodies are actually planets, globular clusters, satellites, asteroids, comets, and more.  When viewed with the naked eye, most celestial bodies look like stars, but if you add a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, you will see some amazing sights.

Astronomy camping is nothing more than paying attention to what's in the skies at night.  Even without binoculars or a telescope, identifying and memorizing the constellations brings a sense of satisfaction to many.  Grab a book that tells the Greek, Native American, Chinese and African lore and mythology to the constellations and you can learn how the constellations were named and what they represented to different cultures.

In the summer months, with a very small telescope or good binoculars you will be able to see the rings of Saturn (on a moonless night) or the craters of the moon on a moon lit night.  The most spectacular views of the moon are when the moon is not full.  In the fall and winter months the same visual aids will allow you to see 3 or 4 of the moons of Jupiter!  Watch Jupiter's moons and you will see that they are in a different place each night as they orbit Jupiter.

Of course, if you are new to astronomy camping you'll need some guidance to where in the night skies to look.  There are two especially useful guides:

Astronomy Camping     Telescope Camping

Binocular Highlights                   Planisphere

While links to these two products are provided (click on "Binocular Highlights" or "Planisphere"), they are simply examples of places on the internet to purchase these items.  Several other web sites offer these same astronomy camping aids.  Planispheres are offered in the bookstores of almost all National Parks and Monuments.

Again, astronomy camping offers a whole new dimension of recreation for you and your family.  Several astronomy information sources are available on the internet including:

  • Amateur Astronomy - News for, by and about amateur astronomers around the world. A quarterly publication with lots of articles and pictures about all aspects of amateur astronomy.

  • Amateur Astrophotographer - E-Zine Monthly publication dedicated to Astrophotography and Astrophotography only.

  • Astronomy Ireland - Promotes astronomy and space interests and education in Ireland. Published by the Astronomy Ireland astronomy club.

  • Astronomy Magazine - Includes astronomy and space news, sky events, reprinted articles for the magazine, and astronomy and telescope resources.

  • Astronomy Now - UK magazine offers current news and subscription information.

  • BBC Sky at Night - E-Zine and print magazine sponsored by the BBC

  • Kids Astronomy - Kids Astronomy is the absolutely free astronomy resource designed to teach children about the exciting world of outer space.

  • Meteorite-Times Magazine - Targeted towards the enjoyment, education, and preservation of meteorites, tektites, and impact structures.

  • StarDate - StarDate is the public education and outreach arm of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory.

  • Sky & Telescope - Geared towards amateur astronomers. Astronomy news, sky charts, product reviews, articles on the science of astronomy, and weekly sky observing guides.

  • Sky News - Canadian magazine about Canadian amateur astronomers, star party listings, astrophotography articles and related photos.

  • The Astronomer - A magazine for the advanced amateur and our aim is to publish all observations of astronomical interest as soon as possible after they are made.

  • The Woman Astronomer - Promotes women's role in astronomy, now, in the past, and in the future.

                                                    Click on any picture for a larger image

Comet West as seen through a small telescope

A gobular cluster as seen through an 8" telescope

Mars as photographed through an 8" telescope

A typical view of the moon through binoculars

Saturn photographed through an 8" telescope

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Page last updated 04/07/2015

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